David Croft issues warning to McLaren in their long road back to the top

Jamie Woodhouse
Lando Norris drives the McLaren MCL60. Bahrain, March 2023.

Lando Norris in action at the wheel of the McLaren MCL60. Bahrain, March 2023.

Sky F1 commentator David Croft heaped praise on McLaren principal Andrea Stella, though believes the team’s recovery is a long-term process.

McLaren had hoped that F1 2023 would see them move closer to the leading pace, having slipped slightly further away from that goal with just the one podium finish scored in 2022 compared to one race win, four further podiums and a pole position the year before.

But it was a truly alarming start to F1 2023 for the team which, having admitted that they did not hit all their targets with the MCL60, started off with a challenger even further adrift of that conversation at the front and more in danger of dropping to the very back than challenging the frontrunners.

The most recent outing in Australia was an improvement, Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri scoring the team’s first points of the season in a chaotic race, though the likes of Alpine, who are trying to reel in the group of Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari behind Red Bull, are seemingly a clear step ahead of McLaren on pace at this stage.

McLaren has moved to address their poor start, with CEO Zak Brown having tasked their new team principal Stella with restructuring the technical team, alterations that led to the immediate exit of technical director James Key.

But, while Croft believes that Stella can get McLaren back on the right path, he warned that it is not something which will happen “overnight”.

“McLaren are at a stage at the moment where they’re waiting on their new wind tunnel to be finished off,” Croft told Sen’s Sportsday.  “And from next season onwards we’ll hopefully see the benefits of that.

“A transition period with Andreas Seidl going to Sauber and Andrea Stella coming in as team principal, fine engineer, worked with Fernando Alonso at Ferrari and at McLaren for many many years.

“He knows his onions, and he’s got a good team at McLaren to put things right, but as ever, things take time, and there’s no silver bullet, there’s no magic wand to wave overnight to make that car go faster for the next race.”

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McLaren need to take a step forward in Baku

While McLaren did not start the F1 2023 campaign with a challenger which they were happy with, the next stop on the calendar, that being the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, is where the first major upgrade package is expected to arrive for the MCL60.

The team have moved to put a lid on expectations regarding how rapidly it could shoot them up the order, especially with many teams planning to arrive in Baku with upgrades of their own, but it is vital that McLaren simply show progress considering their recent struggles.

With the team set on title challenges by 2025, McLaren now have to prove that they can take a step towards such an achievement with their staff structure reworked, bucking this recent trend of decline.

Both Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, McLaren team-mates in 2007, have put their desire on record to see McLaren return to competing at the front as they once did – McLaren the team with which Hamilton won his first World Championship in 2008 -and there are few people in the F1 paddock who would not afford even a little smile should McLaren become a leading team again.